Reagan emptied mental institutions and caused homeless crisis

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Those that claim, "Reagan emptied mental institutions and caused homeless crisis" don't seem to remember the anti-Institutionalization movement that came with the hippies distrust of "the man", and that Democrats passed the laws to empty them. (A trend that started before Reagan, and hadn't ended long after him).

"Reagan did it" is the TDS of the 1980s, but a persistent myth is that Reagan emptied the mental institutions and shut them down, and that's why we have a homelessness problems that California (or nationally) today. Like most things the left believes, it's utter bullshit. The facts are:

  • In the late 50s, warehousing of people in institutions had gone too far, and media exposés on bad conditions had people eliminating federal and state institutions over the failure of state psych wards and the freeing of patients. (They thought the communities would do better). It was national phenomenon, not a state one.
  • Movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (based on a book from 1962) or Clockwork Orange (based on a book from 1962) were examples of the propaganda against mental institutions of the time: consider it a consequence of the rise of the hippie baby boomers, and backlash against “the man”. Sex, drugs, and stop being so judgmental against the mentally ill... it was another failure of progressivism.
  • By the time Reagan took office (1966), the housed population had already halved over his predecessor under Pat Brown (D), and the momentum was already in motion, he didn't increase the trend at all (the policies continued), and it continued under Jerry Brown (D) at the same rate (after him). And it was happening nationally at a higher rate.
  • Since the Democrats/left refuse to take responsibility for anything, they point fingers at someone who did less than they did, forgive both the Browns, and ignore that they've controlled all the houses in California for nearly 50 years since then, and did nothing to fix it. The problems had gotten better through the 80's, 90's and 2000's and only crashed after Barack Obama and 2008+. Those that claim it's all the Republicans fault are either fools, dishonest partisans, or both.
Issue Lie Truth
Reagan caused homeless crisis The misinformed or dishonest repeat that Reagan emptied the mental institutions and shut them down, and that's why we have a homelessness problems that California today. The facts are that the federal mental institutions were a disaster. The movie, "One flew over the cuckoo's nest" was made a decade or two later, to exemplify the attitudes that caused the closing of the institutions, before/during/after Reagan's watch. Democrats controlled the houses/senates that passed it. It was vogue to recognize that the institutions had locked up innocents, and that most didn't need to be in an asylum. So Reagan didn't start, nor stop the trend, which continued long after he left. And if Democrats cared, they had 50 years since then to fix it.

Some of the blame is made because:

  • In 1968 Reagan signed the Lanterman–Petris–Short Act which said that a judge had to sign off on the commitments of patients. This prevented abusive commitment, helped protect the 4th Ammendment rights of individuals, and brought a more uniform approach to commitments... and significantly reducing the number of commitments. Which doesn't show a problem with LPS, it shows the abuse before LPS.
  • In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act to provide community block grant funding to states for such services... but notice he did it in an election year, that he lost, in order to stick the next guy with the bill for his brilliant idea, that had failed, which is why it had been stopped the first time.
  • When President Ronald Reagan went into office, he signed the Omnibus Budge Reconciliation Act of 1981 (aka Gramm-Latta Budget, which got bundled and signed with Wikipedia: Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981) retracting the funding. The vote was 67-8 (Senate), and 282 - 95 (House) -- Democrats controlled the house that passed the law, and most voted for it in the Senate as well. Reagan just signed it.
    • The point was that Jimmy Carter was spending on things that weren't the Federal Governments business, and we had to fund the tax cuts that drove the economy from "malaise" to one of the most successful periods with some offsets in spending. We knew that the federalization of mental health was a bad idea, as it had failed before. Communities have a responsibility to house their mentally ill, based on the community standards: it's NOT the federal governments business to steal from other communities to subsidize some. Democrats that blame Reagan for this, are ignoring that the problem was created over the prior 20+ years, and the State/Communities could have easily taken up the torch if they cared. (California did it with all sorts of other things they cared about more).


Blaming a politician that has been out of office for 30+ years, when the Democrats controlled all 3 houses at least once, and did nothing to fix it is chickenshit at the federal level. More so at the California State level, where they have virtually controlled all 3 houses (often with super-majorities) for the last 50 years. Those that claim it's all one Republicans fault, because of votes that were widely supported or championed by the left (and they voted for), are either fools, dishonest partisans, or both. Anyone that repeats that can be discounted as not informed or honest enough to have adult discourse with.


Homelessness is an unsolvable problem, in a free society, in that you can't claim to be free and stop people from doing things you don't agree with, at the same time. So you have to pick one: tolerance (liberty) or cleanliness/civility/order. Compassion for free-range substance abuse, mental disorders, and layabouts destroying the cities, or compassion for the hard working folks trying to make a better world for themselves and their children. So while you can't cure it, you can decide whether you want to make it better or worse, depending on your tolerance for it. more...


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